Fitness District, The Features

Fitness District: Bellydance

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Part of our ongoing series about different ways to get fit in the District…

In our last edition of Fitness District, Samantha ventured into the world of dance with a trip to B. Fit to try the Barre Method, a system based in part off of ballet. This week, we explore another form of dance that’s recently taken off in DC as a fantastic way to stay fit and challenge your body – bellydance, also known as oriental dance or raqs al sharqi.

Most people’s experience of bellydance in DC is probably relegated to a cabaret performance at a Moroccan restaurant like Marrakesh or Casablanca, or maybe even a show at Palace of Wonders or DC Tribal’s monthly nights at venues like Asylum, but increasingly dance companies are also performing in grand productions on local stages. I got hooked both ways, by watching a performance of Bellydance Superstars in a large theater, and being privileged to have local American Tribal Style troupe Sammati Dance perform for a small party at my house. Inspired by the vibrant joy and sensuality, I wasn’t convinced I could actually get that kind of isolated control over my muscles, but I was sure going to try!

It seems like every gym is adding a bellydance class these days, but I urge you to make sure you are learning a properly constructed curriculum from an experienced dancer to avoid injury. There are many fine dance studios teaching bellydance in the DC area – Joy of Motion, Sahara Dance, and Saffron Dance (where I study) are consistently mentioned as the best. Also, with a thriving community of professional dancers here, you have the opportunity to take private lessons as well, which is a real boon if you choose to advance.

Now it may not seem like it at first, but it takes a lot of control to shake your booty. My very first class had me a sweaty red-faced mess by the end – and that was just a beginners class! As you advance – traveling combination steps, layering shimmies, undulations – it’s hardcore. But every single person I’ve asked about their experience learning bellydance has said the same thing – that it restored their confidence in their bodies and self-esteem.

I asked two professional dancers and instructors, Kostana and Asharah, to talk more about how bellydance impacted their fitness and body image.
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Life in the Capital, The Features

Fitness District: Barre at

Photo courtesy of
‘Studio – B.Fit DC’
courtesy of ‘prettylovelythings’

Author’s Note: This article is part of an ongoing We Love DC series, Fitness District.

I admit it; I am by no means a gym rat.  If you were to perhaps bump into me there, it would not be on a regular basis.  I exercise, sporadically, because it is the healthy choice to make – good for the body and the mind.  But let me say this one time for the record, I dread a morning, afternoon, or evening workout.  I dread them all.

Furthermore, I don’t think that the gym itself makes the experience any more delightful.  In my personal opinion, the gym atmosphere is often times unwelcoming, intimidating, and outright aesthetically unpleasing.  I honestly have no idea where the typical gym owner got the idea that horrendous lighting is flattering, because those harsh lamps with the yellow-ish CRI won’t make even the buffest of the buff look good, let alone poor me.

The solution to my dilemma, as painted above, has been to engage in alternative forms of exercise such as Yoga and Pilates.  Since finding a fit that worked best for me, exercise was no longer a burden – but something that I truly enjoyed and looked forward to.  And the best part, when it comes to the typical Yoga and/or Pilates studio you are almost always guaranteed good, natural lighting.  However, with any routine, sometimes you need to be a bit daring and switch things up.  Which is exactly what I was about to do by enrolling in my very first Barre Class at

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The Features

Fitness District: Ready?

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘sazztastical’

Worn out by the constant snow? Yeah, me too. And I’m a blizzard-baby, February’s child, I’ve got ice running through my veins. So they say, anyway. But winter’s got me beat. During the past several days stuck at home I’ve been browsing spring fashion and fantasizing about the day when summer kisses my cheek.

But then it hit me – all this hibernating comes with a price tag, and it isn’t the one they keep touting the Fed’s closing. Oh no, it’s the extra poundage we pack on during winter to keep us from freezing (or at least, that’s my justification). So guess what? It’s time to start getting motivated and work it off. I mean, we here at WLDC yo-yo for you! You think all those cocktails don’t add up? That’s a lot of sugar, baby!

But, I admit, regular conventional gyms bore the hell out of me. Judging from the masses who influx in the late winter only to disappear after a month, I’m not the only one. People sweating away on an elliptical for hours with no life-changing results… sigh. So I and my fellow WLDC authors are on a mission to find some of the best outside-the-box fitness solutions and preview them for you as we hone in on the perfect spring and summer body.

Yes, it can be done! And we’re willing to completely humiliate ourselves for you in the process! Well, maybe. Read on for a sample of what we’re going to be testing out, and please leave more suggestions in the comments. And oh yes, this experiment will include some swinging around a pole… Continue reading